The 2021 Legislative Session is just around the corner, and a top priority of all lawmakers will be the health and safety of Floridians, as well as Florida’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
As Floridians and business leaders, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida (ACEC-FL) agrees that COVID-19 legislative priorities should take center stage. Yet, lawmakers will also be faced with taking bold actions on a number of important issues, including long-term water solutions.
Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls understand the importance of strengthening Florida’s water infrastructure resiliency.
Through careful planning and strong partnerships, they believe Florida can be a national example of resilient communities, where water remains an engine that drives our state’s prosperity instead of driving Floridians out during high-tides flooding events.
We couldn’t agree more.
The Simpson/Sprowls plan calls for increasing flood mitigation projects, engaging other federal partners, and partnering with cities and counties to get everyone on board and moving in the right direction. This is the right type of long-term resiliency planning Florida needs.
As engineering firms engaged in studies and projects in Florida’s 412 cities and 67 counties, we’ve seen firsthand the negative impacts created by the lack of a unified, statewide plan.
Thankfully, our legislative leaders support a long-term strategy to address this issue with a systematic assessment of long-term needs and a fiscally sound approach to implementing engineering projects.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein recently explained that Florida needs to be prepared for as much as 2.5 feet of sea-level rise by 2050.
And he warned that sea-level rise will likely impact 300,000 homes representing $145 billion in property value. The reality of increased flooding can be seen from the Key’s to St. Augustine — and not just during hurricanes. We no longer have to wait for a catastrophic event — just for a high tide.
In a state known for its beautiful beaches and waterways, fortifying our infrastructure to make our communities more resilient is essential.
And as the ASCE Report Card shows, just as important are the 1,900 impaired water bodies, including those impacted by blue-green algae and the need for $18.4 billion in needed wastewater infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years to help existing septic tanks that are leaching excess nutrients into our canals, lakes, rivers and springs.
It’s a daunting, but important long-term plan that Florida must prepare for. One that, according to Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, would need an investment of over $44 billion to properly address — and that doesn’t even include the cost of addressing sea-level rise.
Thankfully, Florida’s DEP is in position to lead a statewide annual work plan.
With President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls support, this legislative session, lawmakers can begin laying the groundwork for the long term.
Planning today for Florida’s long-term water solutions will help ensure our state continues to prosper for generations to come.
Allen Douglas is Executive Director for the American Council of Engineering Companies; he be reached at [email protected].